Sunday, 19 January 2020
A PARTY of 16 people from Henley, including Mayor Ken Arlett and his wife Dorothy, travelled to Leichlingen in Germany to mark the 40th anniversary of twin the towns being twinned.
Travelling by train, they arrived in the early evening of Thursday, October 4 to a warm welcome. They had a drink at the local brewery and there were welcome speeches.
The visitors were all hosted by members of the Henley Club, the equivalent organisation to our twinning association.
The following day, the Henley party and their hosts visited Schloss Burg, the site of a medieval castle in nearby Solingen, now extensively rebuilt and furnished to give an authentic idea of life at that time.
A guided tour explained something of the medieval lifestyle.
After the visit, the group was treated to an authentic bergische kaffee tafel, a meal including waffles with warm cherries and whipped cream, very typical of this area.
The journey back to Leichlingen included a stop at Mungsten Bridge, the highest railway bridge in Germany — a magnificent iron structure spanning the River Wupper, which also flows through Leichlingen.
On the Saturday there was a parade of vintage cars known as “Old Timers” through Leichlingen and the surrounding area. This was a real highlight of the visit.
An accompanying booklet gave lots of information about interesting landmarks and the beautiful countryside around the town.
Many magnificent cars took part, including a Bugatti, a 1921 Peugeot, a British-built Bristol and a fabulous Mercedes convertible from 1951 in which the Mayor and his wife were driven around.
The cars were decorated with German and British flags and ladies were encouraged to dress smartly for the occasion with a hat.
The parade caused much excitement among local people who smiled and waved as the procession passed by. The final stop was at Obstmarkt, an annual festival to display and sell fruit and vegetables from the area for which Leichlingen is very well-known.
The visitors and their hosts enjoyed going to the market to admire the displays and sample some of the produce.
On the Sunday there was a short ceremony in the morning to rededicate an oak tree in the town park.
The tree was originally a gift from Henley to Leichlingen to mark 25 years of twinning between the towns. A new plaque now marks the 40th anniversary.
There were short speeches by the mayors of both towns.
There was an afternoon visit to Witzhelden to watch the annual Harvest festival parade, which was a traditional annual event like a carnival procession with decorated tractors and trailers celebrating the harvest.
Unfortunately, the weather was not kind but it was great fun nonetheless to admire the wonderful costumes and decorated floats. Lots of time and effort had been put in by everyone taking part to create the fabulous spectacle.
In the evening there was a splendid reception and dinner at the local Schloss Eicherhof to celebrate 40 years of twinning between the towns.
Among the guests were those who have been part of this over the years.
It began with a champagne reception, music from a saxophone group from the Leichlingen music school and a fabulous display by the local dance school.
There were speeches on behalf of both twinning associations anda presentation of an etching of Henley Bridge to the German
The speeches by the two mayors during the dinner emphasised the connections between the towns, mentioning the many groups who had visited, including AFC Henley, school music exchanges, Henley Symphony Orchestra, Henley Choral Society and the swimming club (the German swimmers won the cup at an event in Henley).
The serious part of the speech by German mayor Frank Steffes mentioned the difficulties in British politics concerning the UK relationship with Europe but stressed that whatever the outcome, he sincerely hoped that the friendship between the towns would continue.
It was clear that this is not just a relationship “on paper” but that many deep personal friendships have also been formed over the years.
The lighter part of his speech alluded to the dreadful English weather that was experienced for most of the visit and Mr Steffes presented Councillor Arlett with an umbrella bearing the Leichlingen town crest.
Cllr Arlett thanked the German mayor and all the hosts for their wonderful hospitality over the weekend and presented an engraved silver tray on behalf of the town to mark the event.
21 October 2019
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